Subsidies

Obamacare apologists desperately spin enrollment numbers

Since Wednesday afternoon, the White House, administration officials, and congressional Democrats have been working hard to try to spin the Obamacare enrollment numbers by claiming that 500,000 people signed up for coverage in October.

Fact-checkers have already shot down that particular spin because it’s misleading. The number would get the administration over its original 494,620 enrollment estimate for October, but it includes those eligible for Medicaid, which were not included in the estimates. What’s more, those eligible for the Medicaid have yet to actually enroll.

But some of the biggest spin by Obamacare apologists are the number of Americans who were deemed eligible to purchase coverage on the exchanges but have not yet selected a health plan. Remember, the 106,185 enrollments in October are already an inflated number because it includes those who selected a plan but have not completed a purchase.

Greg Sargent, who writes “The Plum Line” blog at the Washington Post, played up this particular figure shortly after the numbers were released.

Obamacare could lead to divorce for a New York couple

divorce

The insurance cancellation letters and higher premiums were expected. But who would’ve guessed that Obamacare would led to divorce? That’s something a New York couple is pondering because they make too much money to to qualify for subsidies:

The issue for [Nona Willis] Aronowitz and [Aaron] Cassara is that together as [a] family of only two, they make more than the $62,000 level to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. But if they lived together unmarried, they would qualify for the subsidies and could literally save hundreds of dollars a month on their health care.

A single person can qualify for subsidies if they make less than $46,000 a year.
[…]
Aronowitz, a freelance writer, and Cassara, who works as a freelancer in the film industry, lost their health coverage recently when Aronowitz was laid off.

The couple doesn’t see marriage as a big deal, conceding that they aren’t the “marrying type,” though they say they “are deeply in love.” There is no number of other couples who may be considering this, but there are other stories similar to this one, including Michael Olenick, a contributor to the blog, Naked Capitalism.

Aetna CEO explains why Obamacare is causing insurance premiums to skyrocket

Many Americans who have been pushing into Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges have experienced sticker shock at the cost of health insurance plans available to them. Some are wondering why this has happened after President Obama promised Americans “affordable” health insurance.

During an interview last week, Maria Bartiromo, host of CNBC’s Closing Bell, asked Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini about some of the insurance premium horror stories that she and others in the media are hearing and asked what exactly is causing the cost of plans to necessarily skyrocket.

“[W]e spoke with two people yesterday who so upset. Intitially, her plan cost her, I think it was $250 a month. It’s gone up to $600 a month, the new plan. And then the other, it was costing her $500, it went up to $2,000,” noted Bartiromo. “I mean, the numbers are skyrocketing in terms of what these new plans are costing. Is it just because there’s just a lot more things in there, and many of these things, they don’t even want?”

“I mean, they said, ‘I don’t need this, I don’t need that. I don’t need child care, that’s not what I’m looking for.’ How come it’s so much more expensive, the new plans?” she asked.

Bertolini explained that there are three factors that are behind the skyrocketing premiums, taxes and fees, Obamacare’s “minimum essential benefits.”

“The largest factor is that the essential benefits requires a minimum of a 60% actuarial benefit,” noted Bertolini. “For most Americans and more than half of Americans who buy individual coverage, there current benefit plan is below 50%. So if you just move up to 60%, that’s a 20% increase out of the box.”

Some Hill staffers will avoid Obamacare exchanges

Not only will congressional staffers get to keep their hefty subsidy for health insurance, it turns out that at least some will be able to avoid a provision of Obamacare requiring them to purchase coverage on D.C.’s health insurance exchange and, instead, keep their current plan:

In what members of both parties said was a surprise, guidance on Tuesday from the chief administrative officer of the House said lawmakers could privately designate personal office aides as not “official,” meaning they do not have to go on the exchange and could keep their current plan. Similarly, House lawmakers can decide that their committee and leadership staffers need to go on D.C.’s exchanges.
[…]
Similar guidance was distributed in the Senate last week, where at least one senator not in committee or party leadership was looking at using a “liberal” interpretation of the rules to exempt aides from the exchanges, sources said. But it will be difficult for rank-and-file senators to escape public scrutiny if they choose to keep their aides off the exchanges, given senators’ more prominent stature and fewer numbers than House members.

Some House lawmakers are saying that in the face of vague rules, they will make their own determination about what to do.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he’ll declare his entire staff — including aides in his personal office — not “official.” They can then keep their current plan, which they bought under the FEHBP.

Report: Misplaced priorities put national parks at risk

PARKED! How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities are Trashing Our National Treasures

The National Park Service came under intense scrutiny during the government shutdown after park rangers closed off open air monuments and forced people from their homes and businesses in an effort to make sure that average Americans felt the pain of the political stalemate in Washington.

Court case could bring Obamacare to its knees

A lawsuit currently working its way through federal court could undermine key Obamacare regulations written by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) concerning states that had opted not to participate in the insurance exchanges per last year’s Supreme Court decision.

The lawsuit, filed by business owners with the assistance of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), seeks to invalidate the subsidies given to individuals who purchase insurance coverage through the federal health insurance exchange and the fines that employers face if they don’t offer their employees health insurance.

The plaintiffs cleared their first major hurdle last week when U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman, a Clinton appointee, denied the Obama Administration’s motion to dismiss the case. The judge, however, also denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the subsidies until a final ruling on the case is issued.

“We have been hoping for a quick ruling since we filed this case, and now it looks like we will get it,” said Sam Kazman, general counsel for CEI, in a statement after the initial rulings last week. “We are hopeful the forthcoming ruling will invalidate the attempt by the IRS to eliminate the distinction between states that participate in the insurance exchange program and those that do not.”

Sugar protectionism pushing American candymakers overseas

sugar cane

American-owned candymakers have gotten tired of the protectionism that driving up the cost of sugar, according to the Wall Street Journal, and they’re responding to the market-distorting policy by taking their operations overseas:

The squeeze explains why Atkinson Candy Co. has moved 80% of its peppermint-candy production to a factory in Guatemala that opened in 2010. That means it can sell bite-size Mint Twists to retailers for 10% to 20% less.

“It wasn’t like we did it for profit reasons. We did it for survival reasons,” said Eric Atkinson, president of the family-owned candy maker, based in Lufkin, Texas. “These are 60 jobs down there…that could be in the U.S.,” he added. “It’s a damn shame.”

Jelly Belly Candy Co. is finishing its second expansion of a factory in Thailand that was opened by the Fairfield, Calif., company in 2007. The sixth-generation family-owned firm sells about 20% of its jelly beans, made in flavors from buttered popcorn to very cherry, outside the U.S.

Sugar makes up about half of the ingredients and cost of a typical jelly bean, said Bob Simpson, Jelly Belly’s president and chief operating officer. Thailand is the world’s fourth-largest sugar producer and gives Jelly Belly access to cheaper sugar, labor and other raw materials than the candy maker has in the U.S.

Congressional ObamaCare fix sends the wrong message to Americans

The ObamaCare fix — or “exemption” — for members of Congress and staffers is sure to become an electoral talking point in 2014. In fact, it already is. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is already using it in his race against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), which is a crucial election if Republicans hope to take control of the Senate.

The Club for Growth, which has endorsed Cotton, is also using the fix against Pryor, and it’s likely to be featured in other races around the country. But some Capitol Hill staffers resent the fact that their health insurance subsidy was a frequent Republican talking point and has now become an electoral punchline.

Fearing “brain drain” on the Hill due to increase healthcare costs, congressional leaders from both parties, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and President Obama lobbied Office of Personal Management (OPM) to continue the 75% employer contribution that had been in place before ObamaCare rather than have to pay the difference out-of-pocket.

Nothing has changed in regard to members and staffers. They are still expected to get on the exchanges. That’s not in question. The controversy — the “exemption,” as it’s sometimes called — is the 75% premium subsidy that the OPM recently gave to members of Congress and staffers.

That controversy is that the subsidy is far greater than most subsidies on the health insurance exchanges, which some feel is “special treatment.”

Obama again defends ObamaCare, urges Americans to enroll by phone

Obama on healthcare.gov

Anyone who expected to see an angry President Barack Obama yesterday was no doubt surprised to hear him go into yet another long, drawn out defense of his healthcare law and brag about the number of hits the federal ObamaCare exchange website received when it launched at the beginning of the month.

“[L]et me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website,” said President Obama before a backdrop of people who have supposedly benefitted from the law (just three of them had actually signed up for coverage on the exchange). “It’s much more,” he added before listing off some of the provisions, including the “slacker mandate” and Medicaid expansion.

President Obama mostly repeated familiar lines, absurdly claiming that the law “essentially created competition where there wasn’t competition before” and that insurance prices “have come down,” before subsidies are even taken into account. Sorry, but that’s not true for most Americans.

Obama supporters discover ObamaCare raises their premiums

Opponents of ObamaCare tried to warn Americans, particular those who are covered through an individual health insurance policy, that their premiums would go up because of the law. But many either didn’t listen or dismissed the concerns.

But the San Jose Mercury News recently took note of complaints about the dramatic increase in premiums that two supporters of President Obama will see because of ObamaCare (emphasis added):

Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.

Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.

Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four.
[…]
“I was laughing at Boehner — until the mail came today,” Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.

“I really don’t like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family’s pocket each year, that’s otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy.”


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